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Today I’ve been learning ‘Londonderry Air’, which is a traditional Irish ‘Air’. there are a few different lyrics for the tune, but the most famous of them all are ‘Danny boy’.

I’d like to be able to play the piece because it is a favourite in the family. Coming originally from Irish stock it has always been a tune to evoke memories. It was my Grandad’s most loved tune and was played at his funeral, although most of the immediate family were not able to join in much with the singing.

I remember going to my wife’s Grandma’s funeral 13 years ago, and even though I had only met her on a couple of occasions, I still found myself with a tear in the eye when the tune was played. My parents are coming down in September so it would be nice for me to be able to play it well for them.

At my lesson on Thursday my teacher told me about the 7 penny method of learning. Where you place 7 pennies on one side of the piano. When you play the section you are learning mistake-free you move a penny from the left-hand side to the right-hand side.  If you make a mistake you move all the right-hand pennies back to the left. So only if you manage to play the part 7 times in a row without making a mistake can you move on to the next section. By this point you have really learnt the piece and the muscle memory should be well engrained. Needless to say it is very frustrating to make a mistake with 6 on the right-hand side…

I didn’t have any pennies to hand, and I would be concerned about scratching the top of the piano, so I used split-peas from the larder. (They were conveniently placed). Although you could use sweets and then as a treat for getting them all over you could eat them.

I would really recommend it as a way of learning. I should have the piece sorted by the end of the week. 🙂

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